When you picture your ideal vacation spot, does the image always include raging river rapids or massive ocean waves and a few of your most adventurous friends? Do you keep a spare wetsuit or swim trunks with you at all times “just in case?” Maybe a kayak or surfboard is strapped to the top of your vehicle right now? If you answered “yes” to these questions, you might be a fan of water sports.
When we say “water sports,” we’re not talking about lazily tossing an inflatable basketball into a floating hoop in your community pool or scouring the lapping waters of a sandy shore for ghost crabs or seashells. Nope. While some water sports can be a little more laid back than others, many of today’s options are competitive, daring, exhilarating, and most definitely a workout.
Why we love water sports
What’s not to love about water sports, though? On a hot day, there’s nothing like skimming across the water on a set of skis behind a powerboat with the wind in your hair or donning snorkel gear to get better acquainted with the sea creatures living in the clear waters of a Caribbean island. How about the immense stress relief of doing yoga on a paddleboard in the middle of a lake or kayaking down a winding, lazy river?
Of course, any water sport — even canoeing — is great exercise. You are unlikely to find a medical professional who doesn’t highly recommend exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, regular exercise has been shown to decrease risks or lessen the severity of diseases. One of the facts about colon cancer, which, along with breast cancer, both of which are extensively studied conditions in relation to physical activity, is that people who exercise regularly have a 24 percent lower risk for developing colon cancer than their less active counterparts. That’s a wonderful incentive to get moving — especially in a lake, ocean, or river.
If you’re a water sports enthusiast, you’re probably already thinking about your next wet and wild adventure. Forget all those places you’ve already surfed, skiied, or parasailed and check out these three surprising, amazing, and off-the-beaten-path water hotspots.
Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
What better place to enjoy the ocean than an island in the middle of the South Pacific? Australia offers more than 26,000 kilometers of beautiful beachfront, plus a plethora of rivers and lakes. Picturesque Port Macquarie is on the eastern coast of the country, just a four-hour scenic drive from the capital of Sydney, and features such attractions as the Koala Hospital, a nature reserve, the Billabong Zoo, and the ruins of an 1820s penal colony.
If you’re visiting Port Macquarie for water recreation, there’s something there for every adventurer. Like rafting on the river? The Hastings River wraps around the northern tip of the town and contributes to a couple of the area’s kayak- and canoe-ready creeks. Port Macquarie’s 18 beaches (yes, 18!) offer everything from watercraft rentals, to surfing, to 100-kph jet boat rides. Those with a lower threshold for water-filled thrills have plenty of opportunities for whale watching, deep-sea fishing, and enjoying spectacular waterfalls. Whichever outdoor activity you choose, you’ll enjoy soaking in all of the natural beauty of Australia’s gorgeous coast.
When it’s time to retire after a busy day of water sporting, there’s nothing better than the caravan accommodation in Port Macquarie’s Bonny Hills holiday park to rest your weary bones in front of a cozy campfire. Nestled along the renowned Rainbow Beach, Bonny Hills offers the best of the great Australian oceanside. If your kids come along, Bonny Hills has plenty to occupy them, too, with jumping cushions, table tennis, a splash pad and a swimming pool. Who doesn’t love a family-friendly, fun-filled, beachside vacation?
St. George Island, Florida
Speaking of islands, Florida has its fair share, and shining among those pearls of the peninsula is St. George Island, located in the Gulf of Mexico near Apalachicola. St. George Island is definitely one of the top places to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast, and with more than 18 miles of white, sandy beach, it’s a water sport enthusiast’s dream.
Don’t mistake St. George Island for one of those tourist-packed Florida coast party towns that attracts hordes of spring-breakers. This gorgeous gem is actually on “Florida’s Forgotten Coast,” a stretch of tranquil, sparsely populated, and beautiful beachfront that isn’t marred by towering condominium high-rises, crowded commercial theme parks, or tacky souvenir shops. In fact, locals boast about opportunities for mile-long walks along the unspoiled beach uninterrupted by other visitors.
That seclusion doesn’t mean a lack of activity, though. Between gorging yourself on the area’s famous Apalachicola Bay oysters and browsing the many funky and eclectic boutiques that dot the town, you can definitely find all of the adventure you want in the waters of the gulf. St. George Island offers fishing, boating, paddle boarding, kayaking, and much more. In fact, you’ll want to mark several days off your calendar for a long, reinvigorating stay. It’s a good thing that plenty of vacation rentals are available year-round in this charming and secluded spot.
Coos Bay-North Bend, Oregon
When you think of water sports, you always think of Oregon, right? Coos Bay, the body of water, is tucked at the edge of the north Pacific Ocean along the breathtaking southern Oregon coast, which offers incredible rugged, undeveloped beaches, most of which are incorporated into state parks and reserves. You’re sure to see ocean freighters and working fishing boats at any given time from the 500-foot dunes or miles of sandy beach.
In addition to Coos Bay and the expansive ocean, other bodies of water in the area are Upper Pony Creek Reservoir, Lake Merritt, Empire Lakes and several streams. With this much water, you will have plenty of opportunities to get wet, enjoying kayaking, canoeing, fishing and beachcombing. Perhaps one of the most adventurous options is storm-watching, where you can sit safely atop an 80-foot cliff after a storm has passed and watch spectacular 100-foot waves roll and crash below.
Coos Bay (the town) and North Bend, collectively referred to as the Bay Area, have a great variety of accommodation types to offer visitors. If you’re looking for hotels in North Bend, OR, you’ll definitely want to check out The Mill Casino Hotel & RV Park. The Mill is situated on the beautiful bay, and nearly every room offers a bay view–some are quite panoramic. The Mill is also conveniently located near several popular local attractions, including the Cape Arago Lighthouse and Sunset Bay State Park.
Hotels, RV parks, beachfront resorts…no matter which style of outdoor-adventure-trip abode fits your healthy lifestyle, you’ll find it among these secret vacation spots. Whether you visit the pristine beaches of Florida’s Panhandle, the spectacular scenery of the Oregon coast, or the amazing oceans of Down Under, you and your water sporting companions will enjoy days or weeks (or maybe even months?) of physical exercise at any of these destinations.Your doctor would be proud!